Thanks to the Club Unicorn post that’s been making waves on Facebook, I’ve been involved in several (hopefully) positive conversations about the nature of homosexuality and the predicament Mormon LGBT folks find themselves in. Whatever you think of that post (I have mixed feelings), I think it’s a net-positive that it’s sparked so much discussion among LDS people.
So here’s another conversation to add to the pile…
If homosexuality is sin, why is it sin — and how?
The argument typically goes like this: sexuality is given to humanity for expression in marriage between a man and a woman. Homosexuality falls outside these boundaries, therefore it is sin. It is like alcoholism or a propensity toward violence because it is a natural urge of which God has forbidden expression. Like other impulses of the “natural man,” we might feel drawn to certain behaviors, but that doesn’t make acting on the impulse justifiable or correct.
This is an argument I myself espoused for many years. But then I took a closer look and realized that I had failed to take note of some critical differences.
First, consider the nature of sexuality itself. I think we can all agree that sexuality is not inherently evil; at worst we might say it is morally neutral, a power humanity has been given to exercise for good or ill. At best (and I think a strong argument can be made for this), it’s inherently good.
Contrast this with urges toward addiction or violence, or other urges symptomatic of the “natural man,” such as avarice, hatred, or judgment. These natural inclinations necessarily lead to destructive ends. There is no situation where addiction is healthy. There is no situation where violence is the best answer. There is no situation where hatred can be used positively. There is no situation where it’s correct to envy or condemn. That’s not the case for sex. Sexual urges are something fundamentally different from these other urges (which I like to call “diabolical” vices).
Please note that, in and of itself, this doesn’t make homosexuality right — it just makes questions of sexuality DIFFERENT from cases of addiction or violence. We can all think of circumstances where sexuality is used in destructive ways. But a closer examination reveals that this tends to happen when sexuality is tied up in one of the diabolical vices: sexual coercion is violence; sexual addiction is, well, addiction; lust is the de-humanizing of someone made in the image of God and reducing them into an object for personal gratification; infidelity is dishonesty and betrayal. The list goes on.
Which of the diabolical vices is homosexuality attached to? Dead serious question. Because I can’t find one.
Not only that, Jesus said, “By your fruits ye shall know them.” When I examine committed, mature homosexual relationships, I see the same kind of fruit emerging as in committed, mature heterosexual relationships. I see people who are willing to sacrifice, work together, and grow together to become something greater as a couple than they could be alone. I see stability and peace. I see the transformation that comes from sharing a life with others.
I can’t think of any other sin that allows people to thrive like this. And I’m not just talking about succeeding in a material way. I mean gay people thrive in a holistic, mature, spiritual way when they are free to love and form life partnerships analogous to heterosexual marriages. Can you think of another “sin” that produces such good fruit? Because I’ve wracked my brain over this and I’m coming up blank.
Please note that I’m not arguing that sexual sin doesn’t exist, nor am I arguing that homosexuals can’t commit it. We’re all capable of lust, sexual aggression, and infidelity. But what is it that makes homosexuality sinful by definition?
Because, as far as I can tell, we’re either supposed to believe that homosexuality is its own mysterious category of evil that, against all accepted understanding of evil, somehow helps people become better, but is still wrong…
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s time to reconsider some of our conclusions.
In my last post, I introduced an idea that is fundamental to the way I make sense of this world: a perspective of radical freedom and radical grace.
Today, I want to explore another implication of this approach: the value of weakness.
In our fast-paced, modern world — and, let’s face it, our self-reliant Mormon culture — there is a sense that weakness and vulnerability are signs of inferiority. That when we struggle, it is because we are doing something “wrong”; or, perhaps, not doing enough things “right.”
And sure enough, with the radical freedom we possess, we create much of our own misery with our choices. That’s part of the purpose of this life, after all; to learn by our experience to determine good from evil.
But not all struggle is “choice”-related. Some of it is the inherent frailty of the flesh. We might say that Nature is as Radically Free as we are, and that it evolves all kinds of problems, such as illness, appetite, brutality, and disaster. For all its stunning beauty, the natural world is also viciously cruel: we have no power against a tsunami, for example. We are polarized beings in a polarized world, with sparks of divinity competing against base, fleshly instincts and natural processes that can destroy us in an instant.
Of course, we would not be free otherwise. Without both extremes, it would be like living in the Truman Show or the Hunger Games, with everything, even the weather, perfectly controlled. There are some who view God this way, as Master Game Maker, but not me. I believe that uncertainty, disease, and corruption are the price we pay for freedom. And that it’s worth it.
The question is what we do with it.
This is a post that’s been brewing for a really long time. I’ve got bits and pieces written in fragment after fragment in my drafts folder. It’s a big topic. It’s an important one. At the expense of sounding melodramatic, it pretty much sums up my entire philosophy for living on this planet with other people.
It’s too big a topic to cover comprehensively in a format like this, but I figured I’d at least try to articulate some of the most important philosophical underpinnings. Then I’ll follow it up with a post on how this approach affects the way I interact with people. For the record, this is a faith-based perspective that is deeply informed by my Mormon beliefs and my own experiences with God.
Quite simply, it goes like this: I believe in a world of radical freedom and radical grace.
(NOTE: the song above doesn’t have any bad language, but it is irreverent and makes fun of Mormon beliefs. It has a couple of cringe-worthy moments for me, but I don’t find it too egregious — even found myself laughing in a place or two. However, I don’t want to offend anyone, so if you’re worried about it, I recommend that you skip it.) 🙂
There’s been a ton of buzz about The Book of Mormon Musical lately, due to the fact that it took home about a bajillion Tony Awards this past Sunday. I haven’t seen the production, of course, because I live very far away from Broadway — and because I’m not sure my little heart could take it* — but I think there are some very specific reasons why something like this could be made about Mormons at this particular moment. I’d like to explore them here…
My good friend Laura has a wonderful blog called Depressed but Not Unhappy where she discusses depression and mental health issues within an LDS context. I recently did an interview with her about my own experiences as an OCD sufferer, and thought I would pass the links along to my readers.
(If you are struggling with OCD, please see my books recommendations page for 5 books that helped transform my life and made a dramatic impact on my ability to successfully manage my OCD. If you need someone to talk to, you are welcome to private message me on Facebook or email me at katie_in_logan [at] yahoo [dot] com).
Special Note about My LDS Lesson Recaps: Please feel free to use any of this material in preparation for your own LDS Relief Society lesson plan or sacrament meeting talk — no attribution required. 🙂
This lesson outline comes from a mini-workshop I taught this past Saturday at our stake women’s conference on Living a Christ-Centered Life. This is how it came to be: the stake relief society president caught me after church one Sunday and asked if I would be willing to teach something at the conference. I said yes. She said, “What topic interests you?”
I replied, “Well, Sister E., I’m happy to teach whatever you’d like, but you should know that I’m over the moon for Jesus.”
And thus this lesson was born.
There’s no doubt about it: I’m an unconventional Mormon. I have a tattoo that says “grace” on my upper back. I attend an evangelical Bible study every Friday. I’ve even been known to drink the occasional chai latte, just because I can. Over the past several years I’ve wrestled mightily with my testimony of Mormonism, my commitment to the Restored Gospel. Eventually, I decided to stay…partly because I find deep beauty in many of our distinctly Mormon doctrines — doctrines which I genuinely hope are true — and partly because I feel there is value in loyalty to the faith community in which I was born and raised.
I am generally content with my decision. I no longer question it every day. Still, there are moments when I am discouraged, fearful: perhaps I’m fooling myself. Maybe I’m settling when there is something Bigger and Better beyond Mormonism. Maybe God would lead me elsewhere if I had the faith to follow Him. I know this candid confession might come as a surprise to some who are reading this (to others, it might explain a lot), but I want to share the context from which the next part of my post emerges.
You see, tonight I had an experience that confirmed to me the wisdom of remaining Mormon despite my doubts, that instilled in me a deep gratitude for my Mormon identity, culture, belief, and practice.
If there is one thing I love — and I mean love — with a blazing passion that burns like wildfire in my soul, it’s bad movies. And not just any bad movies. Bad religious movies. I love them so much I cry. I watch them whenever possible. They fill a special hole in my heart that nothing else can touch.
There are literally dozens to choose from (and believe me, I’ve seen them all), but here are my top 5.
My 20-year-old sister is in the process of deciding whether or not she should serve a full-time mission and sent me an email asking me about my experience. Of course, prayer and personal reflection are her primary decision-making tools; still, she feels that an important part of her process is gathering as much information as she can about what missions are really like.
Knowing that several of my readers are returned missionaries, I asked for her permission to share her questions on my blog. She jumped at the chance to get wider feedback. So here are her questions and my responses. If you’re an RM, please take a few minutes to respond to the questions as well (if you feel comfortable, you could even include where you served — not necessary though)! We’re happy to take responses from everyone, regardless of how much you enjoyed your mission (or didn’t!) or whether or not you are still an active Mormon.
Thanks in advance for helping her out. 🙂